One of the more common requests we get for iOS devices is to restrict what sites on the web that a device can access. This can be done in a number of ways. One is using the content filter option in Apple Configurator 2. The second is using a Global HTTP Proxy. We’ll cover both here, using custom profiles. Both require the device be Supervised.
Use the Content Filter
To enable the Content Filter, open Apple Configurator and click on the New menu. From there, click on Content Filter in the sidebar. You have three ways you can use the Content Filter. These include:
- Built-in: Limit Adult Content: A basic profile that allows you to specifically whitelist and blacklist sites. This gives you very basic control of sites. Here, use the plus sign to enter a URL, as you can see here.
- Built-in: Specific Websites Only: This option only allows certain sites, and creates a badge for each in the bookmarks list of Safari.
- Plug-in: Allows you to install third party plug-ins on iOS devices. If using this, you would likely have instructions for building the profile from the vendor.
The Content Filter is a pretty straight forward profile, except when using the plug-ins. Close the screen to save the profile.
Once saved, you can use the filter profile in blueprints, via an MDM solution, or install manually through Configurator.
Use the Global HTTP Proxy
In Apple Configurator 2 there’s an option for a Global HTTP Proxy for Supervised devices. This allows you to have a proxy for HTTP traffic that is persistent across apps, and to have that proxy applicable when users go home or if they’re in the office/school. If you have a PAC file, you can deploy the global proxy using that, by selecting Auto as your deployment option.
If you don’t use a PAC file, you can also manually define settings to access your proxy. Here, we specify the proxy server address and port, as well as an optional username and password. Additionally, new in Apple Configurator 2, we have the option to bypass the proxy for captive portals, which you’ll want to use if you require joining a network via a captive portal.
Each Wi-Fi network that you push to devices also has the ability to have a proxy associated as well. This is supported by pretty much every MDM solution, with screens similar to the following, which is how you do it in Apple Configurator.
I am all about layered defense, though. Or if a proxy is not an option then having an alternative is a great call. Another way to disable access to certain sites is to outright disable Safari and use another browser. This can be done with most MDM solutions as well as using a profile. To see what this would look like using Apple Configurator 2, see the below profile.
Now, once Safari has been disabled, you then need to provide a different browser. There are a number of third party browsers available on the App Store. Some provide enhanced features such as Flash integration while others remove features or restrict site access.
In this example we’re using the K9 Web Protection Browser
. This browser is going to just block sites based on what the K9 folks deem appropriate. Other browsers of this type include X3watch
(which can be centrally managed and has a ton of pretty awesome features), bSecure
(which ties in with their online offerings for reporting, etc) and others.
While this type of thing isn’t likely to be implemented at a lot of companies, it is common in education environments and even on kiosk types of devices. There are a number of reasons I’m a strong proponent of a layered approach to policy management for iOS. By leveraging proxies, application restrictions, reporting and when possible Mobile Device Management, it becomes very possible to control the user experience to an iOS device in such a way that you can limit access to web sites matching a certain criteria.